Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tip of the Week--On the Move

I fished with a good friend this week from Bozeman who I've been fishing with quite a bit for the past year now, watching him develop into a pretty good angler...really good actually. He does his research and he's learned to be quite instinctive in the way he reads water. Seeing his development over the last year has been pretty cool.
Anyway, we were fishing and he was telling me about his last trip to the Missouri last weekend. Before heading up to Craig, he read a few reports and blogs like he always does and took what he thought he could use from the info and developed a plan. They did really well even though a lot of guys didn't. The flows were bumped up about 1,500 cfs the day before and rising again, which can complicate things. He said what he noticed was a lot of guys fishing lines he thought were too far out in the middle; the same lines he was taking a couple weeks ago. He also said that one of the things he read was that fish don't move as the water gets higher, you as an angler, have to adjust depth to get down to them. He obviously didn't put a lot of faith in that little tidbit of info. His lines were well inside the others and he was rewarded for listening to his own intuitions.
Fish absolutely do move as the water comes up. Current lines move, seems move and fish have to adapt because of it. If you can adapt with the fish, I guarantee you're going to bring a lot more to the net.

Remember, the water is still cold. Fish don't want to be in heavy current and as the flows increase, the seams that protect the big open shelves and inside-out bends compress those protected areas or blow them out all together. The tail-outs of islands become a safe-haven for fish and as the channels fill up, fish will migrate to them as well. It's kind of like pluming. As more water gets forced through a pipe or a channel, it's not only that water gets pushed out the end faster but also that more pressure pushes against the walls. What happens is the main current gets wider and the soft water shrinks. What also happens is more fish get concentrated into those smaller pockets of soft water.

Most of the ledges I fish I don't have a real severe drop-off. They are gradual dump-offs into deeper water. As the water comes up, the fish are going to slide up the ledge and stage in relatively the same depth of water. Again, the water is cold and fish are looking to find warmer spots where they feel comfortable and where bugs are starting to move. In all honesty, I might go a little deeper but I use the same rule of thumb when I fish in 6,500 cfs as when I fish in 4,000. I put my boat right on the edge of the slope where I can see bottom and then cast out. I'm usually still not fishing in more than 5 or 6 feet of water and for this time of year, I'm never fishing the main current so if my line a week ago in 4,000 cfs was in one spot, I can guarantee you that at 6,500 cfs, my line has moved.

Before you look back at recent posts and say, "Wait a second. Didn't you say you have to get deeper in the winter?" Yes, I did. But fish are coming out of their winter habits. The weather is changing and the water is warming up. This will also make fish move. The shallow flats are the first places you'll find fish eating on top because the sun is warming up the bottom. Bugs are going to be hatching and because of this, you might have to go even shallower as fish start looking up. If you don't see them on top, fish just off the ledges adjacent to and below these long shallow flats but stay out of the main current.

There are no absolutes in fly-fishing and structure along the bottom will give some reprieve from the heavy current so you might find some fish hanging out there but the vast majority will follow the softer water and when you find those concentrations of fish, you will definitely be more successful. That's when having a good understanding of the dynamics of the river can really help and you can get on fish right away as apposed to searching half the day to find a pod. Having a guide that understands this can be well worth the money. However, it can also handicap a person because you know the water so well and you know where the structure is and where the fish were yesterday but you might not take into account the changing current lines that can be really subtle. The one constant is change and probably the most important thing to realize is that fish are hungry this time of year so if you're not getting them, you need to make the proper adjustments and don't just figure the fishing sucks.

Keep 'em where they live...


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